Teen alcohol use a problem in County

by C.F. David

On Monday, Miss America , Jennifer Berry, of Oklahoma , threw her considerable iconic weight behind Oklahoma House Bill 3056, in an effort by Thad Balkman of Norman to strengthen Oklahoma laws against underage drinking and the sale of alcohol to minors.

It's a problem not foreign to Cimarron County . On Sept. 4, 2005 , two Boise City teens died as the result of a traffic accident. The teen driver, had alcohol in his bloodstream.

Since then, an incident in the Boise City Junior High has brought the issue back to the attention of educators and parents. Boise City Superintendent of Schools Dan Faulkner said that some junior high students had served suspensions, (in and out of school), for either having brought and /or drinking an alcoholic beverage on school property. Faulkner explained that the student who brought the alcohol to the school has served an out of school suspension and that though the schoolwork the student missed cannot be made up, the suspension does not threaten the student's chance of advancement. The other students involved served in school suspensions.

Keyes Superintendent of Schools Richard Gleaves said that KHS hadn't had any in school problems; however there had been an out of school incident over the Christmas holiday that the school had addressed.

Asked if there had been suspensions, Gleaves said, “No. This incident wasn't school related, but it spilled into school, because the school is the center of our community,” Gleaves said. “There were no suspensions, but sometimes when things happen, people want the school to take action,” he added.

“But I can't tell people how to raise their children,” Gleaves admitted.

Gleaves explained that the school held an assembly where some of the students involved in the incident spoke to the students, faculty and interested community members.

“It was open to the public,” Gleaves said.

“I have two children of my own. But each of these students here belong to me, and there are things I won't accept,” Gleaves said.

This incident could have easily turned into that [the Labor Day deaths of the Boise City teens] but luckily it didn't,” Gleaves said.

Contacted by e-mail, Felt Superintendent Barbalee Blair wrote, “If one can call any alcohol use “minor,” ours was a minor incident.”

“Rumor had it that two students were involved one evening, and upon investigation the next day, we found that the two students had indeed “imbibed” on the night in question and were punished. To say much more than that would certainly divulge personal information about the incident, which I cannot do. No adults were involved, but two other youngsters brought the alcohol to Felt.”

“As far as putting a stop to it, I'd love to claim that it could be done easily. Not so, of course! Where there are illicit substances used by adults (either legal or illegal), adolescents will push the envelope. In all my years involved with youth, there are really only a few things that seem to make any difference at all: education about the dangers works for some; keeping kids too busy for such extra behaviors works for some; knowing that they will be caught and punished helps. But the biggest deterrent of all, and the one that works best, is for caring adults who are absolutely firm about alcohol and drug use to stay on top of the kid's whereabouts and friends makes the most difference. If a “party” is happening, and the kids know that those caring adults might well appear with an extra six-pack (of Coca-Cola, of course!) or another bowl of fresh popcorn at any moment is the greatest deterrent.”

”Needless to say, alcohol, drugs, and kids are a lethal combination that scares the tar out of most adults involved with adolescents, whether they are teachers, parents, or community members. I wish there were a magical silver bullet on this issue, but there isn't!”

The Superintendent of the Yarbrough School District, Jim Wiggin, said for so far in the 2005-06 school year, they haven't had any problems with underage drinking.

“In the past years, there have been problems,” Wiggin admitted. “This is the sort of thing that you hear about second-handed,” he added.

As Blair, and Gleaves addressed, adults are often the key to controlling underage drinking. The teens need to know the downside to alcohol, such as the possibility of drinking too much and perhaps dying from alcohol poisoning, and of course, for driving impaired.

Parents and adults who make alcohol available to minors can and should be held accountable, and it's exactly what Rep. Balkman, and HB 3056's co-author Sen. Jeff Rabon, of Hugo plan to accomplish.

We're simply too tolerant in Oklahoma when it comes to the sale of beer to minors,” said Balkman in a press release. “Teens can get drunk on 3.2 beer just like any other alcoholic beverage, and it's every bit as deadly. Those who sell it or serve should be accountable.”

According to Balkman's press release, “In 2002, there were 2,207 Oklahomans under the age of 21 arrested for DUI, with 1,200 of those arrests involving people younger than 18, records show. That same year, 15.8 percent of Oklahoma drunk drivers involved in crashes were under the age of 21.”

Studies have shown that youth who drink alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who start drinking at age 21.

HB 3056 bill would also suspend a business' permit to sell beer if the company repeatedly sells beer to minors. Teenagers caught illegally purchasing beer could also face a fine of up to 900 dollars and the loss of their driver's license for up to two years.

Boise City News
P.O. Box 278
105 W. Main Street
Boise City, Oklahoma 73933-0278
Phone: 580 544-2222
Fax: 580 544-3281
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